Nothing says “Biglaw” quite like an old-fashioned partner threat. Biglaw partners, a self-important bunch if there ever was one, generally do little to mask their huge egos. But when those egos express themselves in the form of threats against underlings, well, that’s when you learn why people get paid $160,000 right out of school.
You see, in most situations you just can’t treat highly educated people like naughty schoolchildren and expect them to take it. Not if you are paying them $50,000 a year for some average, middle-class lifestyle. They’ll quit. They’ll tell you to take your BS job and shove it down your condescending throat. But when you pay people $160,000 (or more), then you can talk to them however you please. They’ll take it (and apparently thank you for it). Biglaw partners know that their associates are being paid more money than they can make nearly anywhere else, and so they have little incentive to consider how they speak to their associate colleagues.
Now most partners threaten or belittle people on an individual, face-to-face basis. But sometimes these communications are disseminated to a broader group, and on the rarest of occasions these partner meltdowns are captured over email and sent to Above the Law. And those are the best.
Those of you who have been in the legal profession long enough remember the tale of Jonas Blank. While working as a summer associate at Skadden, he inadvertently sent an irreverent email, intended for a single friend, to the firm’s entire underwriting group (partners included). Whoops.
But the firm was forgiving of young Jonas. He received a full-time offer at Skadden, and he worked there for several years before moving on to Richards, Kibbe & Orbe, a well-regarded boutique (where he still works).
It makes sense that Skadden forgave Jonas. Partners in glass towers should not throw stones….
You know how cars can be equipped with an ignition interlock device that prevents the engine from being started if the driver is intoxicated? Can we get one of those thingies for the personal computer, Blackberry, or any other device people can use to send email? Because I’m pretty sure a Northwestern Law student could have used a little technological warning before she logged on to her email this weekend.
Over the weekend we received an email that was (I can only assume) intended for an officer on the Northwestern Student Bar Association. But it was accidentally sent out to the entire NU law school student body. Whoops.
These are the things that happen when you try to email people at 12:30 on Friday night/Saturday morning….
Discovery disputes, like a certain other thing, happen. But it’s not often that these happenings make the pages of the New York Times. An article on the front page of the business section reports:
Dell has been accused of withholding evidence, including e-mails among its top executives, in a lawsuit over faulty computers it sold to businesses, according to a filing made Thursday. Advanced Internet Technologies filed a motion in Federal District Court in North Carolina asserting that Dell had deliberately violated a court order by failing to produce documents written by its executives, including the company’s chief executive and founder, Michael S. Dell.
The filing is the latest twist in a three-year-old lawsuit brought by A.I.T. that accuses Dell of selling at least 11.8 million faulty PCs over three years and then trying to hide problems with the computers from customers. A.I.T., an Internet services company, says it lost business as a result of the broken Dell machines.
Ironically enough, one of the apparent victims was the law firm representing Dell in the case….
There are many big questions in life. For example, email etiquette. “To” or “dear” or just a name? “Best” or “best regards” or “sincerely” or just your initials? Instant response or tasteful 15-minute delay?
Like many of the big questions, it’s hard to come up with definitive answers. But one summer associate has a core belief system that he thinks all fellow lawyers and law students should embrace:
The summer intern season / horror show is winding down. For the sake of next year’s crop of law student summer interns/associates, could you please post a commentary on annoying email habits? Maybe something similar to George Costanza’s rules for workplace behavior. Anyways, I was fortunate to work at least three years before heading back to school and learned some useful lessons about email etiquette. Apparently, these lessons do not reach most of my over achieving, nobody-has-ever-told-me-no-before law school classmates who come straight from undergrad.
- Chester Copperpot
Copperpot has brought Four Commandments back from the digital mountaintop. We blaspheme against some of them after the jump….
When times are tough, the tough get… whiny? A law student at Emory is frustrated by the lack of jobs being offered up by Career Services and circulated an email airing his or her discontent. Addressed to “My Fellow Emory Law Students,” it lambasts the employees charged with helping Emory grads land jobs.
It’s available in full after the jump, but here’s an excerpt:
This has gotten absolutely ridiculous. When we first entered Emory Law School, jobs were plentiful and career services could sit around and do nothing. Things are much different now. In 2008, the market collapse stunned the legal job market. Those $160,000+ jobs went from plentiful to a rare commodity, yet our tuition continues to rise and our loans accrue.
What has career services done? Nothing. Remember this item on Abovethelaw from exactly a year ago? Apparently, they’ve been a little too calm in this storm. Nevertheless, they still operate under their prior m.o. (sit in the office, do nothing but play solitaire, and expect jobs to walk into their office). Whenever students complain about the lack of OCI jobs (that will be discussed in another paragraph below), their response always references the down economy. When we ask for advice, we are told “Network.” Upon further inquiry about networking tips, we are told, “Talk to people.” They haven’t even attempted the extremes at Duke or SMU Law; options exist, but they don’t want to do the work.
Have Duke’s Bridge to Practice and SMU’s Test Drive set a new bar? Is it a fair expectation that part of your law school tuition go towards paying someone to hire you?
We reached out to Emory’s career services office for their response to the criticism. Assistant Dean of Career Services Janet Hutchinson took a break from solitaire to get back to us…
Here at Above the Law, we like to provide a service to our readers. Sometimes things happen at a law firm that you just can’t talk about to your colleagues. But you can always tell us.
Last week, we corresponded with a frustrated attorney. Despite the fact that he’s quite senior and has changed firms looking for a better situation, he’s still dealing with the kind of casual disrespect most associates all across the land must suffer:
I sit here today at my new law firm, still disgruntled, I find myself writing a fictitious response to a real email sent to me on Monday by my boss. I actually sent the fictitious email to my brother, for pleasure reading, and not to my boss of course. I thought I would share it with you.
The very real email he received from the partner in question seems innocuous enough:
Please let me know if you are licensed in Kansas. I have some work that needs to be done over there.
It’s a harmless enough request, until you learn a little bit more of the backstory that this associate just wishes he could explain to the partner…
We’re hoping the Harvard Law School email controversy has run its course — and we suspect that it has. (But we still invite you to take our reader poll on whether Crimson DNA’s email was racist or offensive.)
Before we close the door on this story, we’d like to give you the background on how it all got started. It’s disturbing — and a cautionary tale for all of us.
Our initial report on this story was missing some important pieces of information, which we did not acquire until later. This post will attempt to provide a more complete report of how one Harvard 3L’s personal email message, shared with just a handful of friends, became national news….
UPDATE: We’ve added a statement from one of the principal players, “Yelena,” after the jump.
If you’re tired of reading about the Harvard Law School email controversy — judging from our traffic and comment levels, most of you aren’t, but maybe some of you are — we have some good news. Our coverage is winding down. (We do have a few loose ends to tie up, though, which may take us into the weekend or early next week.)
Before we conclude, we’d like to hear from you, our readers. We’ve heard from the commenters, of course — but many readers never comment, so the commenters aren’t representative of everyone.
Reader polls, which draw much larger participation than the comments, offer a better gauge of audience sentiment. We’d like to poll you on two questions:
(1) Was Crimson DNA’s email racist?
(2) Was Crimson DNA’s email offensive?
Please vote in our two reader polls, after the jump.
Harvard BLSA denounces racially inflammatory language – The Harvard Black Law Students Association (HBLSA) strongly condemns the racially inflammatory email that was circulated among the entire Harvard Law School community. Like many individuals who read its content, we find the message to be deplorable and offensive. We are open to thoughtful discourse on even the most controversial of views, and yet we categorically reject the archaic notion that African-Americans are genetically inferior to white people. We recognize, however, that this issue is much larger than any single email or any particular student.
Was that so hard? The foregoing paragraph is a pitch-perfect assessment of the situation and an effective response.
The BLSA letter goes on to say that HBLSA should not (and apparently does not) want to be the focus of attention here…
Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past six years. You can reach them by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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When you talk to a prospective lateral about your firm during their first meeting, the conversation can go deep, sideways, and in circles. There is so much to share and discuss. What path of a dialogue can you follow to get better odds of a favorable conclusion?
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The Four P’s
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